A few Porteños I have encountered have made special efforts to help me out. It seems that people here initially keep to their own business, but are keen to provide assitance when someone asks for it. Here are just two of the scenarios that I encountered:
1) In the city of Buenos Aires, there are large supermarkets like Carrefour (the French Wal-Mart) and Jumbo. There are also small ones, often owned by Chinese people, where people pick up a couple of bags for the next couple of days, and walk home from there.
Anyways, I went to one of these to return the bottle of 5 peso ($1.75) balsamic vinegar I had boughten, and to buy some lotion. I´m not familiar with most of the brands here, so I asked a lady next to me which was best. When I asked her if the Nivea slimming lotion worked, she chuckled and said, ¨Sorry, I don´t know! I´ve never had celulitis.¨ Thanks, lady. But no really...she pulled through; we settled on the traditional Nivia. I was in line to check out when she taps me on the shoulder: ¨Hey, I found this one! I´ll hold on to it, and if the Nivea´s too expensive, take this one!¨This was not the case (it was 9 pesos, less than $3), and after checking out, we exchanged chaus, and I walked out, amused by the friendly little lady who cared enough to take additional time to look for something that a stranger needed.
2) In a magazine I once read the saying, ¨Buy flowers before bread.¨Luckily, I have enough silver to do both. After the market, I went to the corner flower shop, Las Dalias, and told the owner that I only wanted to spend a little (10 or 12 pesos, around $3.50). We conversed (in Spanish, obviously) about the condition of the flowers, what I´m doing here, etc., and he flew around the store, arranging a bouquet with a sprig of Jasmine so odorous that I could´ve extracted enough perfume from it to last me a month! Por favor, explain the names of the flowers to me, I asked, though I wouldn´t be able to remember them if I had to. This man was so, so patient, animated, even, with a young lady who barely wanted to throw down real sheckels . I asked him what the word in Spanish was for someone who did not want to spend much, and he said, inteligente. This guy was smart! He knew how to make me feel like I was doing a good thing by being spend-thrifty. Like the hurricanes that quickly appear and strike Central America, this guy zoomed around the store and poofed back up with new additions to the bouquet. ¨How much?¨ I asked. ¨Ten pesos, like I originally told you,¨ he said, ¨I just love to see young people interested in flowers!¨ That was a few days ago, and I have been moving the flowers around the residencia for everyone to enjoy.
While people here may not smile at one another on the street, they show their interest and selflessness in other, more meaningful ways. Whether we´re talking 2 pesos or 200 pesos, or an exchange not involving money, the final interaction goes like this:
-The ¨taker¨says, ¨Muchas gracias.¨
-The ¨giver¨says, ¨No, gracias a vos, ¨No, de nada,¨or ¨No, por favor¨(No, thank you...No, it´s nothing...no, please!)
It´s nice because it makes even the smallest interchange, something that might seem like a tedium of ordinary life, feel like a big deal. Alright, it´s time for me to go to class. Please leave comments if you are touched by my experiences.